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Identifying Organizational Culture

management, business, organization, organizational culture, corporate culture, strong corporate cultures

Learning to identify an organization's culture can be a valuable tool to understanding what the organization is all about. Choosing an organization in which to work and being happy about that choice after the fact requires insight into organizational culture. A quick assessment of the culture might be obtained by examining the arrangement and feel of the organization's physical design or examining its reward systems.

Several of these assessment criteria are present in the McDonald's case. Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's, is memorialized and humanized for all to see. Hamburger University is clearly a powerful training and socialization tool. The Ronald McDonald Center clearly illustrates the importance of community to McDonald's. The emphasis on "quality, service, cleanliness and value" informs employees of what the company does well and what all workers should focus on.

Other approaches to assessing culture result in pictures different from this one. A manager might find it useful to catalog the myths and stories that circulate in his own organization and ask whether they share some common meaning purposeful to the organization. This method would be one way to get an idea about the culture of one's own organization. The corporate culture specialist Schein states that there are no reliably quick ways to identify the cultural assumptions of people in organizations. He recommends observing, talking to people, collecting archival data, listening to stories, and so on, until a pattern finally emerges.

Other authors point out that organizations are embedded in larger cultures from which they draw values and assumptions and that we can learn much from going into organizations and examining cultural scenes. These examinations begin with a description of an interaction that took place and end with a meaningful explanation of that interaction, which may elucidate various themes. Sometimes the themes appear to contradict one another, but often contradictions can be resolved.
Published: 2007-04-22
Author: Martin Hahn

About the author or the publisher
Martin Hahn PhD has received his education and degrees in Europe in organizational/industrial sociology. He grew up in South-East Asia and moved to Europe to get his tertiary education and gain experience in the fields of scientific research, radio journalism, and management consulting.

After living in Europe for 12 years, he moved to South-East again and has worked for the last 12 years as a management consultant, university lecturer, corporate trainer, and international school administrator

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